Last week we reported that the website Lilith’s Lantern had been shut down. Founded in 2003, the site was run by the members of Mandorla coven, many of whom had worshiped with Feri tradition founders Victor and Cora Anderson. It was considered to be a resource that reflected a line of teaching that came directly from their mouths. Also called the Anderson tradition, and Faery and Faerie, the practice was eventually called “Feri” by Victor Anderson himself, and these varied names reflect the way this Pagan path has grown and evolved.Victor Anderson’s story of being initiated as a boy in the 1920s by a “tiny old woman” sitting in a circle he found one day in his native Oregon was recounted in Drawing Down the Moon. The book includes details of the vision he received of a goddess and god during that process, and what came next:
We sat in the circle and she began to instruct me in the ritual use of each of the herbs and teas in the circle. Then I was washed in butter and oil and salt. I put my clothes back on and made my way back to the house. The next morning when I woke up, I knew it had really happened, but it seemed kind of a dream.
Cora Anderson had learned from her root-doctor grandfather, and grew to become known as a kitchen witch. As recounted by initiate Corvia Blackthorn, the sense of recognition the two felt for each other when they first met in 1944 was so strong that they married only three days later.
When Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today, the Andersons decided to become more public about their own practices, and began initiating people. These included Gwydion Pendderwen and Starhawk, who each went on to expand awareness of emerging Pagan traditions through initiation and public work, including Pendderwen’s music and Starhawk’s books.
The practices that the Andersons taught included concepts such as the triune soul and honored deities, including the Star Goddess, that they considered to be separate and distinct from humanity. Elements from a number of cultures were also included, as Blackthorn explained; she uses the name “Vicia” to refer to the tradition here:
Polynesian lore and magic is woven through Vicia, as is Vodou. Other strands include Kabbalah, Gaelic lore, European and American folk magic, as well as Native American concepts. Victor’s personal heritage was diverse, and included Scottish, Spanish, and Native American ancestry (among others). As Cora phrased it in Fifty Years in the Feri Tradition, Victor was “a regular League of Nations.” Starhawk once said that Victor “was allied spiritually with all the indigenous traditions of the planet; a true shaman.” Victor honored all his ancestral ties and teachers. Victor also encouraged his students to explore their own cultural roots and the magical lore of their personal heritages, as “a Witch’s power is in their blood.” This is not a hard-and-fast rule however. Each person is an individual, and each person’s pathway into the mysteries is unique.
It is perhaps because of that unique nature, according to Aline “Macha” O’Brien, that Victor Anderson in particular didn’t teach the tradition the same way to all of his students. That fact has contributed to the rich tapestry of practices now followed by those claiming ties to his teachings. O’Brien said:
Anderson Feri (spelled variously Faery, Faerie, Fairy back when I first encountered it) is intimate, individualistic, idiosyncratic, and mysterious, as much so as each practitioner, individual coven, and line. I see Feri as an exotic vine, sending out tendrils seeking habitable places to propagate. In the places where the stolons find hospitable ground, they flourish and put out flowers of various colors, intensities, and configurations — some deep, intense, highly saturated, and flamboyant; others paler, more subdued, subtler, and very private.
One thing Feri is not is monochromatic. Neither is it orthopraxic or dogmatic. Some plants (individuals, covens) may sever the vine from the original plant. For others the connection may weaken, while others grow more strongly attached to the matrix. Lilith’s Lantern arose from the last coven of founders Victor and Cora Anderson, and thus avoids distortion and offers a purer picture of the wild garden that Feri has grown. Lilith’s Lantern offered an inclusive perspective and reliable resources. I am sorry to see it fade from cyberspace.
The sense that Lilith’s Lantern was a good reflection of those core Anderson teachings was echoed by others who commented on its shuttering. Soulfire, a member of Mandorla who had helped maintain the site, said of his teachers, “Through the work of the Andersons’ initiates, particularly Starhawk, the Craft has grown tremendously. The Andersons’ influence, albeit indirect, cannot be overlooked.”
Storm Faerywolf founded a school in the tradition, BlueRose, and said that Lilith’s Lanters was a site that he’s relied on. He said:
Lilith’s Lantern has been a staple site for students and seekers of traditional Faery/Feri witchcraft for more than a decade, offering insight about our tradition as well as the wisdom of the founders, Victor and Cora Anderson. Unlike the vast majority of other websites and public practitioners of our tradition, Lilith’s Lantern was a unique window into the practices and philosophies of the founders, which were often much simpler than those of the many covens and lineages that stemmed from them.
With the closure of this site we have one less perspective to offer to the rich and diverse tapestry that is Faery, and it will be sorely missed. While the tradition will continue ever on its journey of evolution and growth, this is definitely the end of an era.
Although the site is gone, it has not been forgotten, as it has also been archived and is accessible through the Internet Wayback Machine. The most recent version, prior to the closure, can be found here. The fact that it’s still accessible pleased Valerie Walker, who said that other Feri sites have completely disappeared from the internet when discontinued. She said, “I think that the tendency toward secrecy in all things great and small is a plague on Feri, and leads to silliness like removing things from archives, as if the people who got hold of the material while it was up hadn’t archived them already. All that does is discourage newcomers, which may be the point.”
As for its usefulness across the many Feri traditions, Anaar Niino said, “It was politically neutral and respectful of the variant lines. It was also very friendly to curious Witches who may not have enough information to even ask questions about Feri.” Niino also said, “This was as close to sitting next to the Andersons as you could get without actually being there.”
In short, while Feri is most predominant on the West Coast, it has influenced many forms of Paganism practiced today. Lilith’s Lantern shone a light on many of the core teachings of its founders, Victor and Cora Anderson, who died in 2001 and 2008, respectively.
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Update 3/31/2016: When we initially asked “why” the site was shutting down, we did not receive an immediate response in time for publication. The organizers of Lilith’s Lantern have since responded, simply saying that “they want to be more private.”